What’s Google TV, and Why Should You Care

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You may have heard of Google TV, but if you’re like me, you probably have no idea what it is. So I did some digging, and here’s what I’ve learned.

Google TV is a new platform (aka, operating system) that seamlessly combines television with the Internet. The idea is to streamline content distribution, so that things like web video can sit side-by-side with your favorite television programs or that Facebook game you love to waste hours upon hours on. Google is even implementing apps as part of the platform — which is probably the main aspect that’s got everyone so excited — so that just like on your smartphone, you can download and run apps right on your television. Pundits see this as having the potential to transform your television into an entirely new device.

Frankly, it sounds like the kind of revolutionary product that I’m stunned Apple didn’t think of it first.

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But, you protest, we already have Xboxes and Apple TVs and other devices that marry television content with online content. Yes, we do, but Google TV is an all-inclusive platform for doing it all, in one slick interface that plays nice with every other media device in your household. Movies, TV, music, photos, and everything else, all centralized from every source imaginable — Amazon, Netflix, etc. — and all accessible via a single, slick interface. Example: with Google TV, you could watch the big game live and Tweet about it with your friends, all from the same device. Already planning Google TV apps: heavy hitters like Twitter, Netflix, Amazon, the NBA, HBO, TBS, Cartoon Network, CNBC, Pandora, Napster, Blip.tv, Vevo, YouTube, and of course Chrome, Google’s own web browser. Tons more are expected, not unlike the App Store on iTunes, once Google opens its doors for app submissions.

googletv remote Whats Google TV, and Why Should You Care One inspired feature is the app that will be available for all major smartphones (iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry, etc.) that you can use to turn your phone into a Google TV remote control. A feature called “Fling” lets you send that viral video you’re watching on your smartphone directly to your television set with the press of a button. (Though with a name like that, I’m kind of disappointed it’s not accomplished with a flick of the wrist.) And unlike Apple, which is notoriously Flash-phobic, Google TV can run Flash games and videos at up to 1080p resolution.

Naturally, Google TV requires some extra hardware, but just as they’ve done with Android, Google’s mobile operating system, they’re only handling the software end of things. Major hardware developers will be able to create their own Google TV devices. The first two out of the gate are Sony, which is launching a flatscreen television with Google TV built in, and Logitech, which is creating a set-top box that plugs into your existing television. No prices have been announced yet, but Logitech’s box (pictured below) is rumored to be in the $300 neighborhood. These first devices are expected to hit stores by the end of this month.

By all indications, use of Google’s software looks to be free. Which makes sense, since Google is positioning it more as an operating system (aka, Windows) than an ongoing service (such as Xbox Live).

So… what do you think? Is the future here? Or is it the next Google Wave?

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